Re: [ox-en] Copyfarleft: Response to Stefan Meretz
- From: Dmytri Kleiner <dk telekommunisten.net>
- Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2008 19:40:13 +0100
On Wed, 9 Jan 2008 02:19:25 [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED], Stefan Meretz <stefan.meretz hbv.org>
it is not easy for me to reply to your response. You seem to be angry
and read my paper as a personal attack, however, this is far away from
what I want to do.
I am not at all angry Stefan, in fact I am quite pleased that
you have engaged with my essay, translated it, etc.
I simply find your arguments unconvincing.
I feel completely missinterpreted having an orthodox marxist perspective
(and I wrote it explictly in my paper).
I said you present a _version_ of orthodox Marxism, there
is no such thing as a single orthodox Marxism, even the theory
of Marx himself evolved.
IMO, what makes your argument "orthodox" is it's dependents on
categorically arguments, saying something is wrong or
incorrect, rather than demonstrating any error
logically. i.e. your comments on my use of the word "rent."
Also, your characterization of my views as "bourgeois"
and "pre-Marxian" are all examples of presenting an
orthodoxy instead of a logical argument.
Your rejection of exchange, and your insistence that inequality
can come about even in free exchange is classic Engels, i.e.
You do part ways with many people who employ an orthodox Marxism
in that you seem to employ several neoclassical arguments.
I understand this goal, however, I reject this goal as a goal. I don't
want to improve capitalism,
You have missed the point completely, the point is not to improve
_capitalism_, but to change society starting from
_actually existing_ society, which is the only place from
which we can start.
I don't want to talk about better ways of
earning a living inside capitalism.
Then you have no hope of every creating any change, as our
ability to change the world is directly proportional to how
much wealth we can accumulate towards affecting such a change.
Maybe I am mislead by your leftist and radical terminology, however, I
assumed that you want emancipation, you want a free society beyond
capitalism. Is that the case? If not, I really made a big mistake, and
then have to apologize.
Emancipation must be achieved, not merely longed for. Achieving
any progress requires understanding the real world and the real politic
economic context in which we work for change.
Artists can make a living in a free society as any other people can do.
Yet they must make a living now if they are to contribute to the material
accumulation needed to achieve a "free society" or any change at all.
I am not interested in solutions for some partial groups on costs of
You mean solutions for labour at the cost of capital? This is the only
way. Helping the robbed inevitable costs the robber, it you are unwilling
to cost the robbers, then you need not have typed more than 6 words in
the above sentence.
There is no principal improvement of capitalism. Current capitalism as a
self-organizing economy is by its logic the best capitalism we can get.
This is absurd no matter how many times you repeat it.
Capitalism is not self-organizing, but built by State violence, granted
by State privilege, and guaranteed by State force and can only oporate with
non-free control over productive assets.
You can't accept, that my meta critique is engaged in the foundation of
You have offered no critique at all, simply a normative,
orthodoxy always insisted and never argued. If that is what you call a
"meta critique," then I can only suppose you do not understand your own
opinions enough to expressly them logically.
Good example. I challenge what you name "common knowledge". When you
translate value to use-value and price to exchange-value, then I only
can say this is wrong. Both translations are wrong.
"Wrong" is a label, not an argument. If you where able to, you would
demonstrate why this is wrong, you have not, and most likely can not.
And finally, Stefan's main issue is my endorsement of workers' self
organization as a form of workers' struggle, as is typical of many
orthodox marxists, he claims that his views are categorically
correct, and the views of libertarian socialism are categorically
wrong, confused, "bourgeois" or "pre-Marxian."
I explained why. I reject orthodox marxism in my text (as I always do),
so you are wrong.
You reject neither orthodoxy, as shown by your categorical arguments, nor
Marxism, which we both plainly draw from. This to me means you espouse a
of orthodox Marxism. You reject only what you imagine a single "Orthodox
Marxism" which does not exist.
You miss the point: Workers don't sell their labour, they sell their
labour power. The iron law is wrong.
That is not a point, as explained. You are hung with insisting on your
orthodox terminology, which I have already explained is not relevant.
Yes I do. It doesn't seem self-evident, because you don't use it. Again
using correct terms:
The workers did not get the value of their labour, but the value of
their labour power (the wage).
This difference is essential.
"Wage" and "price of labour-power" are synonmys.
That's right. However, "value of labour-power" and "price of labour
power" are not.
Yes, exactly as I said, the "just" (non exploitive) "value of labour-power"
is equal to "price of labour product." Therefore saying "Wage" being equal
to "price of labour-power" is Just is simply absurd.
You are saying nothing interesting or relevant here.
Isn't the question rather that is any wage less than the
final product's exchange value just?
No, this is not the question, because the labour power is already paid.
So the amount paid compared to the exchange-value captured is not relevant?
Your argument is ludicrous.
You can compare it with a machine: When a capitalist buys a machine,
then the "production power" is paid. However, the difference between
workers and machines is, that workers can produce _more_ than their
(already paid) labour power is worth. A machine can only transmit its
value (which is paid, see remark above) to the products (and not more).
Yes, I have heard this orthodoxy many times. Simply repeating it doesn't
make it relevant to what is being discussed, nor true in the sense that you
seem to mean it.
Once again, you are confusing use-value and exchange-value. Are claiming
a machine's price is automatically it's output while a Haman's is their
subsistence-cost? Why is this so? If somebody give me a machine for free
does that mean that the value it produces is 0?
Both Capital and Labour have costs and productive output. However Capital
experience dis-utility, and therefore does not need to be compelled to
contribute to production, unlike people, and therefor does not require
compensation beyond it's cost. Thus, Labour is the source of all _exchange
value_ (dis-utility must be compensated), while Capital and Land can only
People who "own" Capital and Land can only capture exchange value through
theft of surplus value (exploitation), which is only possible with
State-granted and enforced property rights.
Because it is the way capitalism work: by just exchanges.
No, that is just your absurd belief, as explained.
No, an asymmetrical power relation you mention base on different
economic power. However, assuming we only have productive assets, then
nothing changes: We have to exploit ourselves, we can't "pay us the
final price" of the products, because of the competition. We have to
behave as capitalists to ourselves. We are forced to do investments and
all the alienated stuff capitalists do.
You continue to be very confused here, investment and competition are not
definitive components of Capitalism, as with free exchange Capital
(Interest) can not capture any more than it's cost, thus "capitalism"
depends mainly upon
rent, which is only achieved by _eliminating_ competition by way natural or
The idea that labour and capital exchange as equals is
No. Marx wrote a lot of texts against this assumption. Please read the
Grundrisse for example.
Please present arguments and apply them if you can, do not allude to them.
I am familiar with the fact that many versions of orthodox Marxism hold
this view, I have argued that it is false. You have not addressed nor
of the arguments presented, simply in typical orthodox fashion, deferred to
a "higher authority."
Well, in my eyes this is a self-immunisation against my fundamental
critique. It's your choice.
Funny, you present your "critique" as a fact that needs no argument, and
think I am "self-immunising."
Fact is, you can not or are unwilling to logically explain how class
inequality can arise in the context of _free_ exchange.
No, profit is surplus value related to the invested capital.
You are welcome to use language anyway you like, however I will continue to
refer to that as Interest. "Profit," that is a exchange-value beyond cost,
is divided, like all incomes, among Wages, Interest and Rents.
This does not in anyway obscure anything, in fact it is exactly
incomes that helps us understand exploitation, as in a "free society" there
could be no alienated Interests and Rents. However, a worker could
certainly "profit" by way of labour (Wages).
is more often used even by bourgois theorists, because it obscures the
source of the value, the labour.
No, IMO it is not, is most often used by certain versions of orthodox
Marxism who want to obscure incomes in order to justify the absurd belief
that an exploitive class system can maintain itself in a context of free
"Vulgar" (mostly neoclassical) apologist for capital, do, however agree
with you that "Capitalism" is based on free choice and want to obscure it's
basis in violence, coercion and privilege.
Using Profit looks like, that the
capital, that invests, is responsible for the profit.
No, it is by dividing incomes in to Wages, Interest and Rents that we
can logically demonstrate that investment is only "responsible" for
Interest, and then logically continue to demonstrate that Interest should
not be able to capture exchange-value beyond it's costs.
Lumping all incomes into "Profit" leads one to hold absurd beliefs like
thinking that when a worker engages in free exchange it is
No, your argument was, that artists cannot earn _more_ than their
subsistence (see below):
Exactly. Which refutes your claim that I am arguing that artists can earn
_at least_ their subsistence.
This is empirically wrong, most of them doesn't reach subsistence.
However, if you share this now, ok.
The fact is that I am arguing that artists can not (as a group) earn _more_
that their subsistence, proving you are constructing a straw man.
My article contains references to the empirical evidence you allude to,
which _supports_ my argument. It is the point of the essay!
My argument is that artists as a group can capture no _more_ than
their reproduction costs.
See above. They can't capture their reproduction costs, and of course
even not _more_.
This is a little surreal Stefan, can you not see clearly that you are
_repeating_ my argument and pretending you are _refuting_ it?
Sure they are, nevertheless, they mostly use contracts, which are a
different economic form. And this is important here.
Yet another absurdity.
All exchange is governed by contract, whether explicit or implied,
Sorry, the confusion is on your side. You talk about circulation and not
about production. Any value (even surplus value) comes from production,
and not from circulation.
Exchange value can only be realised in circulation. This should be
However, the issue is not that property owners can use the products,
for instance in the case of software I explain how free software
production can exist within both capitalist and socialist modes,
What is a socialist mode and where do you see it?
A socialist mode is one where Interest and Rent are not alienated from the
We live in a mixed economy dominated by the capitalist mode, yet all modes
can be found if you look around. i.e. some exchange relations among family
and frienes, some co-operative, collective and voluntary communities, etc.
You use same means as proprietary producers use.
Nonsense, Copyfarleft only gives proprietary producers the "freedom" to
chose non-free access which is their preferred mode, or they could instead
to become peer producers and have free access.
This may give
you an advantage when being inside the closed commons, however doesn't
change the exploitation game at all.
Yes, it does, because it prevents proprietary producers from competing
on equal footing against peer producers, thus creating room for peer
production to grow.
It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with
capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only
for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on
production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By
organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the
new society within the shell of the old.
IWW are mistaken. Capitalism won't go away by organizing its logic using
A great example of an orthodox point of view: simply insisted, not argued,
The IWW in this case is correct, the proof being the _fact_ that we can
only build the new society in the shell of the old as that is the society
in which we exist as a starting point, not any other Once again, this is
yet another fact that should be self evident.
As Marx stated, Mankind creates its own history under conditions not of
it's own chosing,
It doesn't matter, where from commodities come as long as they are
Another example of an orthodox "argument."
I refer Stefan to the many post-Marx theorists who continue to
refer to the same model of income (rent, wages, interest), and
factors of production (land, labour, capital) that I employ, such
as Piero Sraffa and Joan Robinson to illustrate that while he is
welcome to disagree with any argument presented, there is
nothing "pre" anything about it.
Now, you use name dropping you accuse me in case of Lasalle and Marx.
Nonsense, I am not referring to their work to prove my arguments, but
rather to the fact of their existence post-Marx as proving my models of
income and productive fators are not "pre" anything, but continue to be
It is not the license that will change the ownership
structure, but workers' self-organisation, in other words
the ownership structure will change when people produce and
share in new ways.
This is a new sound. Your text is the other way round.
IM, my text is clear in this as this has always been my point of view, as
demonstrated by my emphasis on worker's self organisation of production
as the solution.
Here Stefan attempts to portray the objective facts of actually
existing reality as simply something I "want". This is simply
an irrational desire, and not logically argued choice.
I logically conclude this from your arguments. And your answers here
confirm this evaluation: No critique of value, of commodities, of
markets, of alienation etc. Just reasoning of doing it in a different
way, using exclusion logics for the own advantage.
You have neither provided a coherent "critique of value, of commodities, of
markets, of alienation etc" nor demonstrated how such a critique can refute
the arguments I make, only calling your orthodox insistence a "meta
critique" that presumable requires no logical demonstration.
IMO, you seem to employ fuzzy mythopoetic notions of value and alienation
which you're unable to formulate into a logical economic argument.
The only thing I want to argue for is, that by using the old means of
bourgoise society you can't build any germ form of a new society, it
will always be the old one. A new and free society can only be build by
means which in the core point to a new logic of societal production and
Yes, which is what venture communism and copyfarleft attempt to achieve by
proposing peer endogenic relations (the seed of the new society) along with
exogenic relations compatible with the real world (the shell of the old
society) from which we must accummulate our initial wealth if we are ever
to build the new societies.
What happens with the people outside
your new property relations when you win competition in the given
Presumable they join us in the peer economy. Or do you mean what happens to
the non-producers when they are no longer able to exploit direct-producers?
I wonder what, besides waiting for the pseudo-messionic "revolution,"
Ask me? Read archives? Again: I reject revolution (like reformist ways).
Both represent old style thinking.
Please give us a short summary of the transitional course you propose.
Saying "Read Archives" is not enough.
Hide profit?? What you call "banality" seems to me the core problem,
which you want to put under the table.
What I called a banality was your "that's already been tried and it failed"
argument. Which is a banal falacy.
Sorry, you are wrong. Free software is free of value, even when produced
by wage labour.
This is a meaningless statement, that assumes some orothodox mythopoetic
definition of value.
Free software obviosly has use value.
Stefan has now completely lost the plot of both his own arguments and
No, I am consequently in my line. I might be that you didn't get my
points. This may be rooted in my limited expression abilities using
Despite our disgreements, I think you express yourself very well
in the english langaugage, I can only wish that one day my German or
will be as good as your english.
I also want to again mention that we obviosly also agree on many things,
but naturaly a debate such as this one focuses on our disagreements.
The bulk of Free Software is created by employees
Btw. I think this is empirically wrong.
If they are not employees then how do they eat and pay their rent? Is free
software created by the independantly wealthy?
You said it yourself: They [capialists] fund it. They fund a free-stock.
It is > a common input (like science), and thus free of value.
Exactly, they fund it because they employ it in production and thus are ale
to capture a return by controlling circulation of the resulting product.
Thus free software has use-value and can create exchange value only by
have access to property.
What is it about this Stefan thinks challanges exploitation?
What do you mean? There is no exploitation in free software. No value,
no surplus value, no exploitation.
The question was how does it _challenge_ exploitation, given that workers
can neither sustain themselves nor accummulate wealth with it, unless they
have access to property.
I quote this only because this statement was apparently enough for
Michel Bauwens to conclude that "Stefan Meretz gives us a renewed
insight into the genius of the existing copyleft/free software
I share that copyleft was a ingenious invention. It is a legal hack. It
is a subversion of the original purpose of making information goods
scarce to become a commodity.
So do I. I can not see how what you wrote "gives a renied insight" into
copyleft, as your critique barely made reference to it.
But so far, as a free software developer, I know that most of us are
still punching the clock and working for the man.
As a free software developer you should know what you do, and I am
afraid, you don't.
If I where I would wait until you actually managed to refute my arguments
before making claims as to what do or should understand.
Btw. can you or someone explain "punching the clock and working for the
man"? Is it an idiom?
Yes, it is an idiom for selling of labour-power.
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